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Trump at Golf Club as Russia Crisis Grows; Senate Health Care Bill One "No" Vote Away from Collapse; Rep. Rodney Davis Talks Health Care Bill; Russian-American Lobbyist Confirms He Was at Meeting; Kushner Faces New Scrutiny over Russian Lawyer Meeting; 2 Cousins Charged with Murder of 4 Young Men in Pennsylvania; Police Officers Passed Out from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Patrol Cars. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 15, 2017 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: At the same time, the White House is trying to navigate a growing crisis centered on his son's meeting in June with a number of people tied to Russia in 2016.

Donald Trump Jr's account of his secret meeting during the campaign continues to change. First, the president's son claimed he met with a Russian lawyer with his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then- campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Today, we know at least eight people were in the room, including a Russian American lobbyist, who was also a former Soviet military officer.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is covering all of this for us from location nearby of Bedminster.

Boris, bring us up to date.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fred. Just about an hour ago, I told you we were eagerly awaiting a tweet from the president with in response to these latest revelations about who was in that meeting with Donald Trump Jr and some of the president's closest advisers. He did tweet out a few moments ago -- I want to show that to you -- quote, "The stock market hit another all-time high yesterday despite the Russian hoax story. Also, jobs numbers are starting to look very good."

The president again referring to the investigation about collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign as a hoax. He doesn't get into the details about the news as to who was in the room with Donald Trump Jr. We haven't gotten an official White House statement about these new revelations either. But privately, sources inside the White House tell CNN that they are frustrated that the story keeps changing. They say, it is, quote, "not a good thing."

There have been so many different versions of the events over the course of the past year. You will remember, Fred, initially, we were told there were no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials then. As the story broke first last week, we heard there was a meeting between Donald Trump Jr and a Russian lawyer, but it was specifically about adoptions. Then, after he released his e-mails, we found out that Donald Trump Jr's intent in going to this meeting was to gather negative information about Hillary Clinton that was gathered by the Russian government. Then last night, we find out that there was this Russian lobbyist there, someone who Senator Chuck Grassley has said has ties to Russian intelligence, also calling him an intelligence operative.

In his defense, the Russian lobbyist has said, he has no ties to the KGB or Russian intelligence.

Despite that, the president's attorney is saying, even if the president had known about this, no crime was committed. There is no chargeable offense that can come from this. Here is Jay Sekulow talking to Anderson Cooper on CNN just last night.


JAY SEKULOW, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: What statute is being violated here? Because at the end of the day -- I keep saying this -- this is interesting. I understand why you are covering it. But the fact is, no legal violation for the meeting. The meeting, it self, is not a violation of the law.


SANCHEZ: We are not sure if we are going to hear from President Trump today or tomorrow about these new details. He is here in Bedminster, New Jersey, at the U.S. Women's Open golf championship. We understand he is going to be at the tournament today. And that he is going to be making calls to some Republican Senators to push forward this health care bill in a do-or-die week. But he is not holding any public events today. Reporters will not be able to shout questions to him to try to get his response to this new information -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

Let's get more on the latest fallout from that Russian meeting. Michael Allen is managing director of Beacon Global Strategies and former staff director for the House Intelligence Committee. And David Rohde is a CNN global affairs analyst and online news director for "The New Yorker."

Good to see you both.

Michael, you first.

When Donald Trump Jr released the e-mails about the Russian meeting, he said he wanted to be transparent. We are learning there were eight people as opposed to the original four that we were told. How does he escape looking like he is hiding something?

MICHAEL ALLEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BEACON GLOBAL STATEGIES: This is truly amazing, honestly. Those of us in Washington know a little bit about scandal politics. Damage control 101 is to get out all the information quickly and get it out completely so you will not have, as in this case, a new detail every day for six days, which keeps this story alive. So -- WHITFIELD: You know what is interesting on that note, if I can interrupt? "The New York Times" was going to dump the e-mails and then he preemptively, Donald Trump Jr, said I am going to get all these e-mails out. But then left a lot of that detail still undone while he was saying, be transparent. Now, pick up your thought. It is a confusing message.

ALLEN: Clearly, he only released it under pressure. Another interesting question I have got to say, Fred, is who is -- it will be so interesting one day if we learn who is the source behind a lot of this information? The way it has come out, just drop by drop, has been done with a great deal of expertise in public relations savvy to keep this story alive.

The substantive part of this is the most important, the fact that here the Russians are trying to get an on entre into the president's son. Also these atmospherics and P.R. bundles around it that is almost as interesting as the substance.

[13:05:22] WHITFIELD: And, David, there is that information in the e-mail, the inference, we have some dirt, do you want it. Oh, I love it. Then, there was a drop off, where it seems as though there may have been some other kind of contact. But then, only because Donald Trump says, thanks for that. One has to wonder, was there a phone call and what happened during that conversation, if there was one.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I agree that this is a credibility problem. This was completely preventable. Who knows? Again, Robert Mueller's investigation will be the final word. There could be no collusion.

But if you look back at the series of self-inflicted political mistakes, from firing James Comey to all these denials about meeting with any Russian officials, it is really self-created. It's amazing. Why not say up front there were eight people in this meeting. You are talking about this detail about potentially another communication.

I know last night the president's lawyer was arguing there is nothing illegal about the meeting. I am not an expert but I think it depends on whether you get assistance from a foreign organization. the campaign finance laws are unclear. Just going to the meeting, technically speaking, is not illegal. But it is back to this basic question of collusion. Was there any working together, any Russian government information provided to the Trump campaign or in the other direction.

WHITFIELD: Right. Just meeting may not be a big deal. The reason they were meeting was because of this dangling, this lure of we've got information.

That's where you get into, Michael, that potentially dangerous territory you are talking about that an adversarial country that's saying we have something that might be incriminating, which would potentially disrupt the election process. Is that the portion that might make this matter illegal? ALLEN: I think this is the hook into something larger. I believe --

and I don't want to sound conspiratorial -- but I think there are a lot of intelligence professionals I've been talking to who believe that the purpose of this meeting was to answer the query of, are these guys interested in compromising information?


ALLEN: Yes. This demonstrated a willingness. Yes, we do want to receive this information.

There must have been other approaches. I'm not saying we know for sure. This seems like at least the first in a series of what the Russians must have been up to.

By the way, I think the fact of the meeting in and of itself was compromising for Don Jr for the very reason that now it is all out now. Potentially, the Russians could have used this as blackmail, saying, we've got these e-mails and this meeting where we sought to give you bad information and you took it. Look, the Russians are our adversaries and have acted poorly in a nefarious fashion. But we should have had better judgement on the other side. I think there is more to come. This couldn't have been the only instance.

WHITFIELD: David, we are talking about Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, now the presidential advisor, Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, former campaign manager, but very little is said about how much information they had, what they were discussing, whether it found its way to the candidate, Donald Trump. Certainly, Donald Trump and so many in his orbit, lead people believe that nothing happens without him knowing. How much did he know?

ROHDE: That's the key question. Either way, Donald Trump Jr, let's say, he meets with what he is told in the e-mails is a Russian government lawyer that has this compromising information. Whatever the result of the meeting is, nothing is exchanged and he receives an e-mail saying the Russian government supports your father's presidential campaign, and he never tells his father about that?


ROHDE. It is very strange. And Donald Trump was in the office that day. I am not suggesting that he attended, Donald Trump himself, Senior, attended the meeting. But is a huge -- that e-mail is astonishing about what it is relaying about the Russian government's support for President Trump's campaign. She is described as a Russian government official. She disputes that. It is odd. You could argue he should have told his father, if he didn't.

[13:09:52] WHITFIELD: If it was potentially promising, you wouldn't out of sheer excitement? I am going to share this with my dad, who happens to be the candidate, this is what may be coming later. We heard the president say, next week or Monday, I've got something big for you, but then nothing comes from that. All too unusual and suspicious. ROHDE: Maybe the candidate, Donald Trump, Sr, says we don't want any

part of this. This is a foreign government, an adversary nation. It is his decision in the end. We'll see what happens and what comes out.

WHITFIELD: We still to know a lot more.

Michael Allen, David Rohde, good to see you both. Thanks so much.

ROHDE: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: The president and vice president are working the phones this weekend to bolster support for their Obamacare replacement as Senate Republicans are only one vote away from the revised health care bill collapsing. Details next.


WHITFIELD: President Trump and Vice President Pence are making calls throughout the weekend on the GOP health care bill. It's part of an aggressive push on Twitter, by phone, behind closed doors for the president to net a major legislative achievement ahead of the Senate's August recess.

But as CNN's Ryan Nobles explains, it may be an uphill battle for the White House.


[13:15:12] RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senate leadership and the White House are currently engaged in a high-stakes campaign rallying for the 50 votes they need to get this health care reform bill passed.

(voice-over): The White House and Senate leaders are making an aggressive push to convince Republican members to vote "yes" on the latest version of health care reform?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very, very close to ending this health care nightmare. We are so close.

NOBLES: 52 Republican Senators have had more than 24 hours to digest the bill. As it stands now, two members, Susan Collins, of Maine, and Rand Paul, of Kentucky, still remain opposed to the program.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: It doesn't make sense to do a major rewrite of a vital entitlement program without having any hearings or consideration of the implications.

NOBLES: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot lose any more votes if he hopes to get the bill through.

The president, who has let McConnell take the lead in the day-to-day negotiations, is stepping up his public push to get the bill passed. He tweeted four times about health care Friday morning, writing, quote, "Republican Senators are working hard to get their failed Obamacare replacement approved. I will be at my desk, pen in hand." Vice President Mike Pence made a similar pitch in a speech to the

nation's governors.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare.

NOBLES: Trump is working behind the scenes, spending part of his time in Paris making phone calls, including Senator Rand Paul, whose position has not changed.

Many rank-and-file Republicans who remain undecided are waiting to hear from stakeholders back home before making up their minds.

SEN. THOM TILLIS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I hope they wait and speak with their state leaders, as I will, over the weekend. I hope they wait until they see the CBO score which doesn't come out until next week.

NOBLES: Republicans from states with governors with expanded Medicaid are under a special kind of pressure. This bill rolls back federal funding for the expansion.

Rob Portman, of Ohio, and Dean Heller, of Nevada, are both dealing with GOP governors unhappy with the plan.

Nevada's Brian Sandoval met one-on-one with Pence but still has concerns.

(on camera): Even though the prospects for this bill do look dim right now, most Senators are still optimistic, even though they remain undecided. Much will hinge on the score from the Congressional Budget Office due out on Monday.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


WHITFIELD: 14 Republican Senators are still on the fence, remaining uncommitted to the current bill. Moderates say Medicaid cuts are keeping them from supporting the bill, while conservative members are pushing for a full repeal.

Earlier, I spoke with Republican Congressman Rodney Davis on what it would take to bring moderates and far-right members together to pass this bill?


REP. RODNEY DAVIS, (R), ILLINOIS: I would like to see states like Illinois and others that have very low reimbursement rates get incentivized to implement things like the work requirement so we can focus on some job training and get people on our Medicaid system, get them out into a job. Let's incentivize that a little more. I would hope the Senate would do a better job there. I would like to see us put forth plans that are going to truly provide the access and the multiple layers of protections for pre-existing condition coverage that the House bill has. I would hope the Senate would do the exact same things we did.

WHITFIELD: Is it your hope there would be modifications made on the Affordable Care Act or are you proposing to completely revamp or redesign before the Senate would be able to entertain a vote on it before making its way back to the House?

DAVIS: Well, I would like to see them do a fix and a replacement just like we did. One of the biggest misnomers we see in Washington is this talk of complete and utter repeal and replace. Any time you change a law, you fix it. Any time you move toward a positive change, a repeal of anything, you have to replace it with something. Even in legislation, it can be as simple as changing a period to a semi colon. That is a fix. What we did in the House is a fix. What they are doing in the Senate is a fix. It is a fix to a broken system and law that has left 29 million Americans right now without health coverage.


DAVIS: And 31 million more, like the producer and the cameraman behind me, that can't afford to use the coverage they have.

WHITFIELD: Isn't it being argued the House plan was not a complete fix but a repeat and replace with this. The success rate has not been one to brag about, which is why we are at this stage with Mitch McConnell trying to craft something completely different?

[13:20:08] DAVIS: I don't agree with that assessment at all. I think our House bill was a bill that put layers upon layers of protections for pre-existing condition coverage. We believe this is the first step in a three-step process to really, truly provide the families I represent in central Illinois, that are part of the 31 million Americans that can't afford the coverage they have or they can't afford coverage, so they are not buying it, we believe our plan is that first step in providing those alternatives. That's what we need.


WHITFIELD: That was Republican Congressman, Rodney Davis, from Illinois.

We are learning more about the people that were in that meeting with Donald Trump Jr and a Russian attorney. The latest figure, a Russian- American lobbyist and former Soviet soldier. We'll get more on him next in a live report from Moscow.


[13:25:06] WHITFIELD: New questions about a June, 2016, meeting between the Trump campaign team and several people tied to Russia. Eight people were at that Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr, the president's son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chair, Paul Manafort. One of the eight, a Russian-American lobbyist, who was a former Soviet soldier. CNN senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, joining us from


Ivan, what is the Russian government saying about this former Soviet military member's connection to the Kremlin?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A spokesman for the Kremlin said they do not know who this man is, Rinat Akhmetshin. We have been doing research about him. He was born in the Soviet Union. Yes, he served in the Soviet army, as was necessary of all men in the Soviet Union. It was a conscript army in those days. He moved to the U.S. decades ago and became a naturalized American citizen in 2009.

According to a New York district court document from 2012, he introduced himself in response to a subpoena as somebody whose business is strategic communications. He said, quote, "Some of my clients are national governments or high-ranking officials in those governments."

I have spoken with one person from Kazakhstan, a human rights activist, who said saw Akhmetshin mentioned at human rights conferences in the late 1990s and that he was an opponent of the government of Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic at that time.

More recently, he was the target of a letter from chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, to the Department of Homeland Security, who wrote, quote, "I write to obtain information regarding Mr. Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant to the U.S., who has been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests and, apparently, has ties to Russian intelligence."

Now, in other interviews, Akhmetshin has denied he worked for the Russian government or Russian intelligence. We do know he worked with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Vesalnatskya, who was at that June, 2016, meeting with Donald Trump Jr. Both of them were lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, U.S. legislation that sanctioned Russian individuals implicated in human rights abuses and corruption -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Ivan Watson, thanks so much, from Moscow.

Lawmakers in the U.S., on both sides of the aisles, are alarmed by recent revelations of a meeting between the Trump team and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign. Jared Kushner was the only person in that meeting who now holds a government title. He didn't disclose that contact on his original security clearance application. Now, Democrats are calling for the president's son-in- law and top adviser to have his security clearance revoked.

Here now is CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Inauguration week and the president's son-in-law files his first papers for a security clearance on January 18th. Jared Kushner reveals no contact with any foreigners during the campaign or transition. The next day, he says he hit that send button too soon and will amend that.

In May, according to his lawyer, the papers are updated to show Kushner had "over 100 calls or meeting with representatives of more than 20 countries, most during the transition."

By mid-June, as they prepare for congressional testimony, Kushner's lawyers say they discovered the e-mail from Donald Trump Jr setting up that meeting last year with Russian lawyer, Natalia Vesalnatskya, allegedly to get Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton. Kushner attended that meeting which Donald Trump Jr now says was a bust.

DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It was apparent that wasn't what the meeting was actually about.

FOREMAN: Nonetheless, on June 21st, Kushner amended his security papers against to reflect his attendance at this meeting. And according to a source close to Kushner, he said he was going to tell President Trump. We don't know if he did.

TRUMP: Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting.

FOREMAN: But as the president called the Russian lawyer meeting meaningless, he is also saying he learned of it not in June but only days ago.

JAY SEKULOW, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He was not aware of the meeting, did not attend the meeting, and was only informed about the e-mails very recently by his counsel.

FOREMAN: Kushner's late admission of that meeting has urged sharpe interest in all his foreign contacts not initially disclosed because, as an advisor, all meetings with foreigners must be listed.

[13:30:00] SEN. MARK WARNER, (D), VIRGINIA: It seems strange to me that those meetings were conveniently forgotten, at least by Mr. Kushner.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: How long was the meeting?

DONALD TRUMP JR: About 20 minutes or so.

HANNITY: About 20 minutes. And Jared left after about five or 10?


FOREMAN: The Russian lawyer says neither Kushner, nor then-Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, played much of a role.

NATALIA VESALNATSKYA, RUSSIAN ATTORNEY (through translation): I don't know. He was the only one that I was speaking to.

FOREMAN: But amid all the late revelations, Democrats are fuming that Kushner was given security clearance at all.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D), CALIFORNIA: Anybody else applying for clearance with these facts would be denied that clearance.

FOREMAN (on camera): Of the three representatives of Donald Trump we now know were in the room with that Russian lawyer, only Jared Kushner is now an official adviser to the president. That has put him squarely in the crosshairs of investigators trying to figure out if anyone did anything illegal.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: Four young men murdered. One man has confessed, telling police exactly how the crimes were committed. What we don't know is why. Story is next in the NEWSROOM.


[13:35:22] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

New chilling details in a bizarre murder case out of Pennsylvania. Two cousins have been charged with killing four young men after luring them to a rural area under the pretense of a drug deal. A massive search for the missing men ended when one of the suspects, Cosmo DiNardo, started cooperating with authorities, telling investigators where to find the bodies. He and his cousin, both 20 years old, are facing murder and robbery charges.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the two cousins are sitting behind bars for more than a dozen other charges each in connection with the killings of these four men first reported missing from this area in Pennsylvania last week.

After those court documents were filed, we learned a lot of horrific details of each of their confessions. What we learned was that Cosmo DiNardo admitted to luring one of these men to his family's property, which isn't far from where we are with the intent to sell him drugs. Instead, he shot and killed one of those men and buried his body on his family's property. Two days later, we learned from those court documents that he brought his cousin with him and the two of them tried to bring three other men to his family's property, this time, with the intent to rob them. Instead, again, they shot the three men on the family's property, burying them in a separate grave. And according to the papers, also trying to burn their bodies to conceal evidence.

We have learned from authorities that they were able to recover all four of the men's bodies and bring them back to their families, which was the hope of this district attorney. We have also learned they have recovered the guns used in these crimes.

What we do know is that Cosmo DiNardo gave a full confession. That's what helped authorities with this case. In exchange, the death penalty is off the table. But the district attorney says, when it comes to his cousin, Sean Kratz, that wasn't the case, and the death penalty is still a possibility -- Fred?


WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Brynn.

Now, let's discuss this with our legal guys, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor in Cleveland, and Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor, joining us from Las Vegas.

Good to see both of you.

Sorry, under these circumstances. This is a really troublesome case. The prosecutor took the death penalty off the table for Cosmo DiNardo.

Avery, what are the consequences now that the suspects now face? That was taken off the table before they learned what we know now about the story.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, that was the inducement, Fredricka. The idea of taking death penalty off was to find out where the other three young men were. You can't substitute your judgment for Mr. Weintraub, the prosecutor there. These families couldn't -- need to know where their sons were. That was the deal. Very good work by the defense lawyers. If I'm prosecuting this case, I would go very slowly before you yank capital charges or capital offenses off the possibility here. That's exactly what happened. But you are right. The details here are absolutely horrendous. There is premedication, an effort. There was guns around that house where the body is buried after an order a couple of months ago that a judge said Cosmo DiNardo wasn't allowed to have firearms. At the family house, there was a .357 and a .22 caliber, both of which prosecutors claimed were used in this case.

WHITFIELD: Richard, with capital punishment off the table for Cosmo DiNardo, what about the death penalty for Sean Kratz?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: They are going to pursue that. It is a political environment and the district attorney is going to run for office. Everybody is in an uproar about this. It had to be a tough decision whether or not to go with the death penalty on Cosmo DiNardo. The district attorney went to the victims' parents and family, said, look, we are looking about withdrawing it. They all agreed. Take it off the table. They had agreement from the victims' parents to remove the death penalty and give them closure to find the bodies. Then, when you learn what happened here, Fred, not only did he shoot and kill these people at point-blank range. He took a backhoe and ran over the bodies.


HERMAN: Then dug a ditch and put them in, the bodies, and then threw gasoline in to try and burn the bodies to cover it up. Reading this case and studying it, it is one of the more horrific cases we have covered over the years with you. Well, the other cousin is going to turn around in court and blame Cosmo. And, what do we do, Fred, about mental health issues in in country? This Cosmo DiNardo is on social media screaming with guns, I'm going to kill people, and we do nothing about it, and then he kills four people.


[13:50:29] HERMAN: That's one of the big issues to discuss about all this.

WHITFIIELD: This is partly why it is very confusing, too, Avery and Richard, because while there is that kind of public display of threatening behavior, as you talk about, Richard, we also, when you hear about the details, the sequence of these events, horrific events, there is planning, there is this calculation. So if you have the abilities to do all of that, and then there is the argument that there is the mental illness involved, might this make it very difficult for prosecutors and for the defense attorneys to, in one sense, argue that there was mental illness but then, on the other sense, there is this rationalization, and ability to carry out and make adjustments in the crime, right, because we are talking about a drug deal and then there was a car sale and then there was a change of plans of that.

So, I mean, Avery, it is not so cut-and-dried. It is very complicated.

FRIEDMAN: I agree with you. I think the brush of mental illness is hardly a resolution of the this. The fact is that even though he was involuntarily placed in an institution a couple of months before, the fact is he was wrongly around. He went to the family's home, the family owns a construction and cement company where the backhoe existed, where the guns existed. So whether or not that is an issue in the case really remains to be seen. It certainly might be civilly. Right now, we have to get through this criminal case.

And I agree. We are dealing with two and three days of planning, digging the ditch, the backhoe backing over these victims, and then at the end DiNardo trying to sell one of the victim's cars, the third day. This is pretty deliberate stuff.

WHITFIELD: Richard, real quick, last word?

HERMAN: It is really all about closure, Fred, and giving the families closure. That they have, the remains of the bodies, and they can go have funerals and bury them and grieve. That's what it ended up with. Some people would argue that life in prison is worse than the death penalty. In any event, you don't have closure here. I don't think they are going to go for the death penalty for the cousin. Life in prison is pretty serious.

WHITFIIELD: Pretty horrible.

HERMAN: It is a brutal, brutal case, Fred, really, one of the worst.

WHITFIELD: Avery Friedman, Richard Herman, thank you so much, gentlemen. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, police officers passing out at the wheel? They say it is the fault of the vehicles. Stay with us to hear from one of the officers and the automaker's response.

Plus, a teen in despair barely knew his father and was kicked out of his home. Now, he is a high school graduate and headed to the military. After the break, meet the man responsible for redeeming this teen's hope for his future.


[13:42:35] WHITFIELD: This week's "CNN Hero" had a rough time growing up. Harry Grammar was arrested at 16 and sentenced to five years juvenile probation. He has since turned his life around and created a nonprofit group in Los Angeles helping today's youth stay out of trouble. Watch.


HARRY GRAMMAR, CNN HERO: Bottom line, everybody in this room including myself, we have a story to tell. You have to tell the world about who you are. I want to see what you have inside of you that wants to come out


GRAMMAR: We need to listen to our young people and find out what it is that they are longing for and what they want.


WHITFIELD: To learn more about Harry's mission, head to CNN And while there, nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."

Bizarre cases of police officers being poisoned by carbon monoxide in their own patrol cars have popped up across the country. The problem started almost two years ago when an officer passed out and crashed his SUV into a tree.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me with more details.

Very bizarre, indeed.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. It all boils down to what several officials and police agencies say. This carbon monoxide that appears to be seeping into some of these police models of the Ford Explorer, that is raising concerns specially for one police department in Texas. Austin P.D. now actually pulling several of their patrol cars off the streets. You are about to see why.



SANDOVAL (voice-over): This police dash-cam captured this seconds before Newport Beach officer lost consciousness behind the wheel. He drifts into another lane, over a grassy median, and crashes into a tree line. Look again. The SUV narrowly missed an oncoming vehicle.


SANDOVAL: The officer behind the wheel is currently suing Ford, the maker of its patrol vehicle, blaming his blackout on carbon monoxide poisoning.

A similar case is making its way through a Texas court. Documents show Austin police sergeant, Zachary LaHood, was on patrol in March when he became nauseous, light headed, and began experiencing cognitive difficulties.

OFC. ZACHARY LAHOOD, AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I have a headache. I feel like I'm going to throw up.

[13:50:00] SANDOVAL: Before pulling into this parking lot, LaHood nearly collided with an oncoming bus. His medical diagnosis, according to the lawsuit, carbon monoxide poisoning.

The National Transportation Safety administration has investigated more than 150 complaints from Ford Explorer owners about the smell of exhaust fumes in their SUVs. Ford has settled a class-action lawsuit related to those complaints.

After Sergeant LaHood's incident, Austin P.D. pulled 37 out of theirs in service. The police association president now calling for a long- term solution.

KIM CASADAY, PRESIDENT, AUSTIN POLICE ASSOCIATION: We have officers in the city driving around every day being poisoned and they don't even know about it.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Ford Motor Company responding to allegations that their Explorers are flawed saying, "We have investigated and not found any carbon monoxide issue resulting from the design of our police interceptor utility vehicles. We know police modify these vehicles, which can contribute to exhaust-related issues. We have provided instructions to help seal these modifications and are ready to inspect any vehicles with this concern."

Those instructions were sent to Austin P.D. They identify openings on some 2013 police interceptors that could allow external air into the SUV. The maintenance bulletins date back to 2012, says Brian Chase, attorney for three officers suing Ford.

BRIAN CHASE, ATTORNEY: Most of police I know now are putting carbon monoxide detectors in the vehicles so they can catch it ahead of time. It would be nice if they had a warning about this sooner.

SANDOVAL: That's something Chase is hoping with change.


SANDOVGAL: And Brian Chase, the attorney you just heard from, telling me his firm is currently in touch with at least six other families who have reported issues with their Ford Explorers, carbon monoxide issues. I have actually reached out to the Ford Motor Company again to try to see if they have received those kinds of complaints again, Fred, because that is really a key question here. Should civilians be worried? As soon as we hear back from Ford, we'll check back in with you.

WHITFIELD: All of that is very alarming.

Thanks so much, Polo.


WHITFIIELD: CNN NEWSROOM returns in a moment. Stay with us.


[13:56:30] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Police officers are used to helping kids in troubling situations, and rarely are they able to follow-up with them later on in life. But that's not the case for one Phoenix police officer and a teenager with a tragic home environment.

CNN's Dan Simon caught up with the police officer who opened his doors and went "Beyond the Call of Duty."


BRANDON SHEFFERT, POLICE OFFICER: There's officers who do this every single day. Other officers who do it all the time.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officer Brandon Sheffert gives new meaning to the term first responder.

SHEFFERT: It's my turn.

SIMON: He was the first to truly notice a struggling teen, opening his doors to the high schooler he randomly met on patrol.

SHEFFERT: I view him as just another one of our kids. It's kind of odd when he's not around.

SIMON: How has he made the biggest difference in your life?

ANTHONY SCHULTZ, TEEN HELPED BY OFFICER BRANDON: He's taught me everything I need to know, stuff I didn't know before.


SIMON: How this stranger became a part of the family is a testament to the officer's character and compassion. Cops are accustomed to seeing disturbing things but the officer knew he had to intervene when he later responded to a call at Anthony's cramped apartment.

SHEFFERT: Tension's high, tempers were high.

SIMON: There was a call to 911 and a fight between family members involving alcohol. When the officer pulled the young man aside --

SHEFFERT: It really bothered me because usually when I talk to kids and people, I have an ability, I feel, to get through to them. For some reason, it just ate me up inside.

SIMON: So much so that the officer started making frequent trips back to the apartment. He's coming by every day.

(on camera): He's coming by every day.

SHULTZ: Yes, checking on me.

SHEFFERT: I think he had a rough go. I think there was a lot of emotions. He didn't have his dad in the picture. I don't think he had a solid male role model ever.

SIMON (voice-over): Officer Sheffert began fulfilling that role. And when Anthony's home life got even worse, the officer didn't hesitate. Call it an informal adoption.

SHULTZ: I don't know how to explain it, but if you were looking in my sophomore year compared to, like, today, you would see a totally different kid. I think I've matured in every aspect of life.


SIMON: Nearly three years later, the family beaming --


SIMON: -- as the one-time failing student graduates from high school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anthony Michael Schultz.


SIMON: This summer, he plans to enlist in the military.

Officer Sheffert knows that some may think he crossed a line with Anthony, but he doesn't care. The teenager, he says, has become the third child he and his wife never planned on having.

SHEFFERT: I can't imagine my life without him around. And I don't think anybody else can either.

SIMON: Dan Simon, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


WHITFIELD: Wow. That's a nice touch of inspiration.

All right, we've got so much more straight ahead in CNN NEWSROOM. And it all starts right now. Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me. I'm

Fredricka Whitfield.

A pivotal weekend for the president of the United States as he faces a pair of major challenges. He's spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf course, which is hosting the U.S. Women's Open. But a White House official says he's burning up the phone lines, calling Senators in last-minute make-or-break efforts to save a revised GOP health care plan.

The president is also facing a growing crisis over a secret meeting his son, Donald Trump Jr, held with several people connected to Russia.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is covering the president for us from nearby Bedminster.

Boris, I understand the president is adding some legal fire power to help with this growing Russia investigation.

SANCHEZ: That's right.